Writer: Matt Rowley
Date:Friday August 17 2007
Stoke prepare for their first home match of the new season against newly relegated Charlton in front of the Sky TV cameras tomorrow (kick-off 5.20pm) and Matt Rowley previews the match
Another week of transfer inactivity sees Stoke go into their first home game of the season with the same threadbare squad that managed to pull off the fantastic result at Cardiff last week. Charlton though will be a much tougher test for this group of players where at home creativity from midfield will surely be a problem. After following up last weeks very impressive win with a penalty defeat at Rochdale, fitness could prove a problem with many of the team playing 120 minutes in mid week. It will be the first meeting of the two clubs in the league since 1998 and they have not played each other since a then Division Two Stoke side knocked Premier League Charlton out of the League Cup in 2000.
Having managed to keep hold of many of their better players Charlton should be a force in the Championship this season. With players like Andy Reid, Jerome Thomas, and Lloyd Sam to supply new additions Luke Varney, 'Big Chris`, Svetoslav Todorov, and Izale Mcleod they should score lots of goals and should show just how good, or not as the case may be, Stoke`s defence is at the moment. However it is at the back that Charlton have weaknesses and with our frontline being stronger than it`s been for a long time we should cause them problems. And after a disappointing opening day home draw to newly promoted Scunthorpe Charlton could take a while to adapt to life at this level.
Stoke`s only real injury worry ahead of the game is Skipper Danny Higginbottom who was forced off at half time with an ankle injury during the mid week defeat at Rochdale. It was feared that he had a break but a scan showed no serious damage and he should continue his fledgling partnership with Ryan Shawcross at the back. With a lack of options in both defense and midfield Tony Pulis` only other selection dilemma will be who to partner Ricardo Fuller up front. With Richard Cresswell getting his first for the club against Rochdale Pulis may be tempted to move him to his natural position to reignite his partnership with the Jamaican.
Charlton will be without ex-Crewe favorite Luke Varney who has an ankle injury and this could mean a start for Iwelumo who moved to the Valley on a free transfer from Colchester during the summer. Matt Holland will also be missing but Jerome Thomas is expected to recover from his hamstring injury in time to play some part in the game.
Where the game hinges:
The fitness of Danny Higginbottom is vital to this match. With Stoke being so low in numbers it is absolutely vital that their talisman skipper plays if they are to have any chance of keeping Charlton`s impressive attack at bay.
One to watch:
There is a lot to choose from, but fast and silky winger Sam will be a tough prospect for the potters defence to handle. We will need to keep him quiet to stop the supply to their wealth of choice up front.
Date:Friday August 17 2007
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